When I calls them, I really calls them …

See this bit of propaganda
and the money quotes on Linux within

Q: A couple of you have brought up Linux. Based on your experience, how does a Windows-based HPC platform compare to Linux-based HPC clusters in areas like development, setup, maintenance, interoperability, scalability and applications?

Wortman: The setup and management of Windows Compute Cluster Server vs. a Linux cluster is worlds apart for us. The proof of this is the fact that a Windows technician with no HPC experience can set up a cluster from scratch in a matter of hours. Linux clusters simply take more care and feeding, and substantial knowledge of Linux, which nearly all biomedical researchers lack.

Let me get this straight … I want to make sure I understand this … You really want your expensive HPC computing resource/platform setup by someone who doesn’t know HPC?

Sort of like you wanting that expensive database server set up by a windows technician with no knowledge of databases? Or that nice web server set up by someone with no knowledge of web servers. Or …

The point should be obvious.

There were other bits about “linux clusters being hard to set up and then appropriately tune up”. Ummm… I guess they didn’t see this.

It is not hard to cable boxes together, and get something running quickly. For the simplest cluster designs, this works very well with Rocks. You answer a few questions after booting from a DVD, and your system is up pretty quickly afterwords. Clusters from 1 to 2048 nodes. Doesn’t matter, the admin time does not scale with the number of nodes.

Of course for more complex computational analysis you need better cluster designs. It is beyond me how a windows technician with no knowledge of HPC could possibly be an asset in this case.

While I am sure the windows technician could in fact install windows, I would be hardpressed to imagine they could deal with tuning for bursty file server workloads, performance optimization under a variety of run circumstances, or even deal with ameliorating problems with the same.

I am not sure what to think about anyone willing to trust the setup of a critical component to someone who doesn’t quite grasp what the component does, how it all works … Yeah, you can tinker with your car’s engine. You might even be able to fix things if you are not trained to, by carefully following a set of instructions. But there is a very limited range of things you can do, and you would lack the experience to deal with issues that often do arise. Thats why, unless you are experienced with dealing with your cars engine, you ask it to be serviced by someone who knows how the engine works, and has a fighting chance of identifying and fixing problems. Sure you will save a little money upfront if you bring your car to your cosmotologist to get it fixed, but there is a pretty good chance that they can do a very limited range of operations before they are completely lost. Same with the windows technician.


But I called it, and I was spot on. Windows Cluster is part of tactical efforts of Microsoft to deal with Linux as a threat. Not part of a strategy to grow in the growing HPC market. HPC has been growing at a tremendous clip long before Microsoft offered any products here.

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